SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers gets wrapped up by Cortez Allen #28 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
It's a great position at which to have competition. A team can never have too many quality cornerbacks in today's passing-based NFL.
However, it's a position that requires a strong familiarity of one's assignments and a good feel for where he is on the field. Because of that, it becomes harder to give guys equal snaps in the hopes one clearly outperforms the other. That's why this training camp is critical for both Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, two guys fighting for the Steelers nickel back position vacated by Keenan Lewis, who will most likely replace William Gay as a starter.
Allen's story is great. He didn't play organized football until he was a senior in high school, where he was named to the All-State first team.
In Florida. A state that provides more Division I athletes to the rest of the country than it does oranges and humidity, Allen picked up the game for the first time in the fall, and was among the best in the state when it was over.
Both he and Brown were taken in the 2011 NFL Draft - Brown in the third around and Allen in the fourth. Dan Shonka of Ourlads Scouting Service had Allen rated as the third best cornerback available after the Combine, and Brown was 7th.
Brown is seen more as the athlete between the two of them. Both are built in the mold of the kinds of cornerbacks the Steelers covet - long, tall and athletic. While the team usually wants corners who aren't afraid to hit (neither appear to be, based on film from last year, Brown's special teams play in particular) but they're fighting for what will mostly be a coverage role this season.
Allen has a little bit of a size advantage, and the Steelers turned to him last year when they nearly emptied their entire depth chart onto the field in a Week 8 win over New England. Allen performed well in the time he was in there. Brown's athleticism will get him on the field one way or another, though.
This could be the battle to watch come July.